As the titular anagram of Interpol's name suggests, El Pintor refocuses and realigns the fundamentals of the band's music. Where their 2010 self-titled album split the difference between back-to-basics post-punk and lavish experiments, on their fifth album -- and first without former bassist Carlos Dengler -- Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler, and Sam Fogarino hone things even further. El Pintor is Interpol's shortest album, and its music is the closest to the ideal form of the band's sound: Kessler's guitar swings between prodding, angular lines and dreamy washes; Fogarino provides crisp punctuation; and Banks' yearning-yet-authoritative baritone gives more form to abstract lyrics such as "There is a slope like an appetite" (Banks also steps in for Dengler, and does an able, if slightly less distinctive, job). Throughout the album, the trio, joined by Secret Machines' Brandon Curtis, delivers archetypal examples of many of its sounds. El Pintor's opening track, "All the Rage Back Home," even combines the band's extremes into one song, pitting dreamy verses against pulse-pounding choruses with results that are catchier than anything on Interpol. Elsewhere, "My Desire" showcases their flair for spring-loaded guitars that build into a skyward rush; "Anywhere" and "Ancient Ways" define their driving rock; and "My Blue Supreme" and "Breaker 1" typify their chilly ballads. That said, the band also leave a little room for experimentation. "Same Town New Story"'s skipping beat nods to Banks' fondness for hip-hop, while its velvety yet tense guitars and keyboards give it a more mysterious, open-ended feel than many songs here. Later on, "Twice as Hard" makes a brief return to Interpol's orchestral flirtations, incorporating strings and piano into its massive finale. However, what sets El Pintor apart from what came before it is the spirit animating its songs. Even during the album's darkest, most angst-ridden tracks, like the gorgeously despairing "Tidal Wave" and "Everything Is Wrong," Interpol often sound less urgent, and sometimes less immediately compelling, than the highlights of their more uneven albums. Even if it doesn't have as much of the jagged need that sparked their best work, El Pintor is Interpol's most consistent album since Antics; fans who love the band for its pure sound will probably enjoy it more than those looking for stop-you-in-your-tracks moments.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares